Drug and Alcohol Dependence (DAD), an international journal on biomedical and psychosocial approaches to drug, alcohol, tobacco use and dependence, has published a special issue on HIV in Central Asia, entitled “HIV and People Who Use Drugs in Central Asia: Confronting the Perfect Storm,” with Willma and Albert Musher Professor Nabila El-Bassel as one of three guest editors. The other two are public health professors Steffanie A. Strathdee (UC San Diego) and Wafaa El-Sadr (Mailman School of Public Health).
The special issue has been released in time for World AIDS Day 2013—appropriately, as the AIDS epidemic has been expanding in Central Asia at a time when HIV transmission has been declining worldwide. It also represents the first time DAD has dedicated all of the articles in a single issue to this region.
Specifically, the issue looks at the epidemiology of HIV and the overlapping co-morbidities of Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) and Tuberculosis (TB). It describes risk environments that increase the risk of HIV among the key populations in Central Asia who are at risk for AIDS:
- People who inject drugs (PWID)
- Female sex partners of PWID
- Men who have sex with men (MSM)
- Female sex workers (FSW)
- Migrant workers.
As the editors point out in their introduction, although an estimated 1 percent of adults inject drugs in several Central Asian countries—i.e., Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan—the figure rises to above 10 percent in areas along major drug trafficking routes, representing one of the highest rates of drug injection in the world.
Other areas of focus in this special issue include the policies and socio-structural barriers that prevent people who inject drugs in Central Asia from accessing and utilizing harm reduction programs, as well as the status of HIV testing, care and treatment, along with biomedical prevention, in this region.
Although the issue focuses mainly on the five countries traditionally considered to constitute the Central Asia region (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan), a number of articles look at adjacent countries with similar epidemics, such as Afghanistan, Mongolia, and China.
The contributors come from all over the world, and each of their articles goes beyond the information currently available to identify gaps in scientific knowledge and provide an agenda for future research endeavors.
The special issue was sponsored by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), which supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction. The preface was contributed by NIDA’s director, Nora D. Volkow, whose work has been instrumental in demonstrating that drug addiction is a disease of the human brain, and Jacques Normand, NIDA's director of AIDS research.
To commemorate World AIDS Day, the Social Intervention Group and the HIV Intervention Science Training Program, both led by Professor El-Bassel, will be hosting a talk by Jan Carl Park, on the impact of recent healthcare reforms on the delivery of HIV in New York City, on December 4. Read more.